Jonathan’s Card: A Social Experiment Gone Awry?

By now, I’m sure that many of you have heard about “Jonathan’s Card”. For those that haven’t, here are the basics: Jonathan Stark, a mobile application consultant and author, purchased a Starbucks card and put $100 on it. On July 14th, he put it out to the world. He took a screenshot of his card and posted it online for people to download as a .jpg to their smartphones. The barcode would scan at Starbucks just as if you were using the Starbucks mobile payment app.

The idea Jonathan had was a social experiment. In the spirit of “Take a penny, leave a penny,” his thought was to see if people would “Take a coffee, leave a coffee”. I actually like to think about it in terms of paying for the person behind you, which has garnered some attention to Starbucks for people doing this at the drive-thru. Jonathan’s hope is that people would use the card and then reload it for others to use. He set up a barebones website that explains what to do. He also set up a Twitter account, @jonathanscard, that tracks the use of the card and gives an update every time there is activity. I’ve been following the card’s activity, and usually there is between $5 and $10 on it. There have been may times where it has reached zero. But it is constantly recharged. To date, there has been almost $9,000 added to the card by over 500 people.

However… It also leaves open the possibility of abuse. Instead of purchasing a coffee or a latte, there have been some stories of people using it to purchase more expensive merchandise. And then comes this…

Sam Odio, an Internet entrepreneur, has intentionally transferred $625 from Jonathan’s Card to his personal Starbucks card. In addition, he coded a computer script that he posted online (no, I will not provide a link for this) which alerts the user when the card reaches a certain limit. You could download this script, set up your laptop at your local Starbucks, and when you get the alert, go to the counter and transfer the balance. Odio adds insult and justifies his actions by stating that Starks’ experiment is just “Yuppies buying yuppies coffee”.

Odio says that he is going to put his personal card on eBay, and then donate the money to Save The Children.

Here’s the thing… While his actions aren’t ethical, they aren’t technically illegal. Or are they? If I rob a bank, but then donate the money to charity, is that ok? If I add money to Jonathan’s Card, I’m doing it with a certain expectation. My hope is that it is going to buy somebody else a cup of coffee. Not to be added to some idiot’s personal card and used for something I didn’t intend. I know that there are bad people out there who abuse the system. I like to think that there are more good. My personal opinion is that Sam Odio is stealing, and should therefore be arrested and prosecuted.

Jonathan Stark has decided not to intervene or shut down the card, which I applaud. I guess in it’s way, it becomes part of the experiment.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a Starbucks partner as a part-time Barista.

UPDATE: The experiment is over.  Starbucks has pulled the plug and is shutting off the card. Here’s the notice from Jonathan.


Looking For iTunes Help

I thought I would use this forum to see if anybody can help me out. I’m looking for either an iPhone app, AppleScript, or a way to lay out a smart playlist in iTunes for a particular problem.

Here’s the background… I have a 16gb iPhone. I have an absolutely enormous iTunes library (almost 130gb… Over 28,000 songs). Obviously, I had to set up a playlist in iTunes just for my iPhone music. The problem that I’m having is that even with paring my library down to 9gb for the iPhone, between apps, pictures, podcasts, etc, I am constantly running out of room and having to delete music from my playlist in order to make it fit. And forget about trying to add anything new to the playlist. Purchasing a larger iPhone is out of the question right now for me.

What I’d like to do… I’d like to build a smart playlist (or get an AppleScript for iTunes) that would allow me take my iPhone playlist and mix it up every time I sync. Have it set to sync, say only 8gb of music, even though that particular playlist is 9, 10, or more gb. This way, I can keep adding music to the iPhone playlist and never have to remove any. Whenever I connect to iTunes, it would randomly sync only the set amount.

As an example, let’s say I have the following music in my iPhone playlist:

Song A
Song B
Song C
Song D
Song E
Song F
Song G

My iPhone can only hold songs A, B, C, D, & E

When I connect to iTunes, this program would randomly rotate out Song A and swap in song F. But the next time I sync, it might swap A back in while taking out B and adding G.

Hopefully this makes sense. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or ideas.

Thank you all for your help!


I know that I haven’t posted anything to this blog in quite some time. Part of it is because I’ve been laid up by a couple of recent surgeries, and part of it is because I’ve never really been crazy about the UI in WordPress.

I’ve recently come into owning an iPad 2 (more about that in a future post). As an Apple geek, I’ve been an iPhone user for quite some time. Like many people, I het overwhelmed by the sheer amount of apps that are available. So I usually look for suggestions from people that I know, or follow blogs such as Engadget, TUAW, and Gizmodo. I also subscribe to quite a few Apple related podcasts, such as “The MacCast” and my favorite… “Mac Break Weekly.” One of my favorite segments of Mac Break Weekly is “Picks of the Week.”. This past week, Andy Ihnatko used an iPad app called “Blogsy” as his pick. I’ve always trusted Andy’s instincts, so I decided to give Blogsy a try. I’m writing this post using the app. The interface is much nicer than the actual WordPress interface and it has really cool drag and drop features.

I’m hoping that I’ll fall in love with this app, and as a result will take more care in not neglecting my blog. I’ve got a ton of stories to share.

If you have a blog… What apps do you use? I’d love to know! Please feel free to leave a comment below.